Offer incentives to step up registration for vaccination

WITH the arrival of fresh stocks of AstraZeneca and CoronaVac vaccines, hopefully our vaccination rate will be stepped up. But two pertinent issues remain – the low rate of registration and high absenteeism (failing to turn up for the appointment).

News reports that 10,000 registrants failed to turn up in Kelantan to be vaccinated is a cause for concern. What is behind this vaccine hesitancy and/or indifferent attitude?

There is an urgent need to devise a better strategy not only to encourage more Malaysians to register but, more importantly, also to ensure that they turn up on the day of their appointment. Development of innovative messages to heighten awareness and acceptance of vaccines among Malaysians must also be continued.

The aim of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) is to achieve herd immunity by the end of the year at the earliest by inoculating 80% or 26.7 million of the Malaysian population.

Is this achievable? Not if these two issues are not addressed head on. As it stands, we are still a long way off the NIP’s target.

If the number of registrations does not rise significantly soon, Malaysia may have more supply of vaccines than people willing to be vaccinated.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that there is a correlation between rolling off the vaccine plan and recovery of our nation’s economy as well as the opening of our borders.

It appears that only Internet-savvy Malaysians (especially the rich and educated) are able to go online to get registered, and that with a lot of hassle, too. What about those who have no such facilities? In this case, couldn’t a friendlier approach be used? An appointment date at a venue close to their homes could be made for those, especially senior citizens, who find the website registration a hassle. This can be easily done through the National Registration Department.

We cannot continue to rely on traditional methods of disseminating information such as by handing out brochures to the rural folks via Pos Malaysia. Word-of-mouth communication – through the village security and development committees, penghulu, religious leaders and children persuading their elderly parents in their hometown to get vaccinated – are better ways. Sometimes nudging each other in

a neighbourhood can work wonders.

Shouldn’t heads of government departments and agencies be roped in to encourage all of their staff to register? How about the corporate sector doing the same (including government-linked companies)? Give staff time off to go for the jabs and also take care of side effects such as soreness and tiredness.

There is still a lot to be done and the government cannot do it alone. The people must do their part for the successful execution of the NIP. Please get vaccinated as soon as possible so that our country can return to normalcy hopefully by the end of the year.

DR POLA SINGH , Kuala Lumpur

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